Watauga County Schools continue providing meals amid remote learning


Gianna Holiday, Reporter

Low-income families often depend on free or reduced lunches for students in school, but with students learning remotely this year, Watauga County Schools has proposed plans for ensuring students’ access to free meals.

Watauga High School Principal Chris Blanton says North Carolina school districts will continue serving students meals, but each district will have its own plan inspired by protocol used during the summer.

“We are helping families as much as possible through our social worker, Jennifer Wandler. In addition to that, we have a very caring staff that works with families and students to help meet their needs,” Blanton said. 

According to No Kid Hungry NC, school districts expected a change in service beginning Sept. 1 because of U. S. Department of Agriculture waivers affecting school meals. 

Schools in Watauga will operate as meal distribution sites. On weekdays, schools will serve lunch and a packed breakfast for the next day from noon to 1 p.m. in a drive-through line. The USDA is funding the program through Dec. 31.

“As of now, (Watauga County Schools) students can receive meals, but they have to be picked up at school. The district is working on another plan, but that is dependent on state funding,”  Blanton said.

Watauga High School will follow Watauga County Schools’ plan for a 2×3 schedule to start the year. The 2×3 schedule allows half of the students to attend school Monday and Tuesday while the other half attends Thursday and Friday. Wednesday will be a remote learning day for all students. 

Garrett Price, director of communications for Watauga County Schools, said that because the governor made the announcement that schools will open on Plan B, they have been working to prepare Watauga-specific information for staff, teachers and parents. 

In Watauga County, 28.3% of the population lives below the poverty line, which is 13,600 out of 47,900 people. That number is higher than the national average of 13.1%.

During COVID-19 spring and summer school closures, a texting hotline and an online map provided information on meal sites across the state, but those resources are not yet updated with information about fall meals.

“At the school level we have resources available in a wide range of areas, from our technology help desk, to (the Assessment, Support and Counseling) center for mental health concerns, and counselors and teachers,” Blanton said. “The community also has a number of resources available to help students and families with food insecurity.”